SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The Swamp Rabbits have started putting things together lately, but has had trouble turning that into results. They finally put a good week together grabbing four points, going 2-1-0.
Results from the Past Week:
Nov. 28th vs. Norfolk Admirals, 3-1 loss
Chris Nell started in goal for the Swamp Rabbits as they took on the Admirals in an Education Day game. Both teams got some really good chances early on but could not translate the chances to goals. It was both goalies that stole the show in the first period with some great saves to keep the game 0-0 heading into the first intermission.
The second period was much the same as both goalies continued to make big saves. Luke Nogard finally got one past Nell to get the Admirals on the board. The goal came just 3:29 into the 2nd period. Nell and Ty Reichenbach traded big save after big save after the opening goal. The Admirals took that 1-0 lead into the second intermission.
The Swamp Rabbits came out looking for an equalizer and that is exactly what they got. Dylan VanderEsch scored just three minutes into the third period and tied the game up at 1-1. The tie lasted less than three minutes before Norfolk grabbed the lead once again. This time, it was Darik Angeli giving the Admirals the lead, 2-1. The Swamp Rabbits once again found themselves looking for an equalizing goal. Greenville pulled Nell from goal to gain the man advantage but it worked against them this time. John Gustafsson scored on the empty net, closing out the 3-1 victory for Norfolk.
Chris Nell played great during this day game. He took the loss but stopped 37 shots on 39 attempts. He was also a big part of Greenville killing all four penalties they faced.
Nov. 30th @ Atlanta Gladiators 3-2 win in OT
The series with Atlanta has been a fun one to watch so far during the 2018-19 season. This first game of a home-and-home series lived up to that on Friday night. The Gladiators jumped out to an early lead on a deflection just a little over six minutes into the opening period. The lead did not last long thanks to Jon Jutzi, who tied the game at 1-1 with his first goal of the season. The game went into the first break tied at one.
The tie did not last long once the second period got started. It was just a little over three minutes into period two when Swamp Rabbits newcomer, Brendan Harms scored to give Greenville the lead. The 2-1 lead held up for a while but it just felt like an Atlanta equalizer was inevitable. That tying goal came from Gladiator’s forward, Derek Nesbitt. His goal, coming just three minutes into the final period tied the game up at two. Both teams had a lot of chances but neither could get the game-winning goal in regulation.
Michael Pelech notched his seventh goal of the season in overtime. His goal gave Greenville the 3-2 win in overtime. Pelech’s goal proved to be huge for a couple of reasons. Of course, it gave Greenville the win, but it also gave them momentum as the series headed for Greenville the following night.
Brendan Harms had a two point night in his Greenville debut and captain Michael Pelech scored the game-winning goal in OT. Check out the highlights from last night's 3-2 victory over Atlanta!
We're at home tonight against Atlanta. Puck drops at 7:30 pm. pic.twitter.com/tZYPFrPPVG
— Greenville Swamp Rabbits (@SwampRabbits) December 1, 2018
Dec. 1st vs. Atlanta Gladiators, 2-0 win
This game was by far the best Greenville has played all season. We are hoping it’s a welcomed change and not just riding high from the overtime win on Friday. Greenville owned Atlanta in every sense of the word on Saturday night.
Nell started his fourth straight game in this one and looked incredible. He made some great saves in a game that was scoreless after two periods of play.
— ECHL (@ECHL) December 2, 2018
Pelech, who scored the overtime winner on Friday, scored four minutes into the third period. That was all the Swamp Rabbits would need as Nell would post his first shutout as a member of the Swamp Rabbits. He stopped all 31 shots that Atlanta threw at him.
Stephen Pierog scored an empty-netter to double the lead late in the final period. We are not accustomed to Greenville playing good, consistent hockey but that is exactly what we got on Saturday night. They played good defense, had great goaltending, and the offense had a good flow to it. It was by far the most complete game this team has played all season. The final was 2-0 on Saturday.
Chris Nell's shutout performance led Greenville to victory last night. Michael Pelech scored the game winner at the start of the 3rd and Stephen Pierog added insurance with an empty-netter. Thank you to all 4,947 fans that joined us! 🐰 pic.twitter.com/Ie48cq5wBn
— Greenville Swamp Rabbits (@SwampRabbits) December 2, 2018
Rabbit of the Week:
If you watched those highlights above then you know this pick is a no-brainer, Nell has to get this week’s “Rabbit of the Week.” He made good save after good save this week. I will talk about it below in the “Weekly Takeaways,” but it looks like he’s become the number one guy in net for the Swamp Rabbits.
Nell had 89 saves on 93 shots he faced this past week. A majority of those saves came in big moments that had the potential to swing game momentum. His four goals in three games this week were good for 1.30 goals against average.
- Last week, I had a takeaway stating that Chris Nell will make Garrett Bartus better. I may need to change that to state, “Nell will make Greenville better.” It seems like Coach Kevin Kerr likes what Nell brings to Greenville when he starts in goal. Most were expecting Bartus to start in goal on Saturday night after a game in Atlanta on Friday night. There was some concern that Bartus was injured but that’s not the case. I was assured by the team that Bartus is not injured, rather, Coach Kerr just preferred to start Nell for the fourth straight game.
- The power play has to improve. Look, I’m glad this team is playing better but they must improve on the power-play as well. This week, they had eight power-play chances and did not capitalize on any of them. Currently, the team ranks 14th in the league on the power-play but a lot of that is due to early season success. Lately, they have had a lot of trouble finding the net with the man advantage.
- Can the team keep it up? I know this takeaway is more of a question but I’m really interested in seeing if they can keep up the good play moving forward. A defense that was hard to watch early on has started to improve and give this team more chances to win. They are also getting better at playing the whole 60 minutes, something that I’ve talked about before. I hope they can keep up the good play but only time will tell.
A good week allowed Greenville to put some space between them and last place Atlanta. They were also able to close the gap for the fourth and final playoff spot from the South Division.
- Jacksonville Icemen, 13-7-1, 27 points
- Norfolk Admirals, 12-7-2, 26 points
- Florida Everblades, 11-5-4, 26 points
- South Carolina Stingrays, 11-10-0, 22 points
- Orlando SolarBears, 10-8-2, 22 points
- Greenville Swamp Rabbits, 8-12-3, 19 points
- Atlanta Gladiators, 5-10-3, 13 points
The Swamp Rabbits get to take a trip down south this week. They play all four of their games this week on the road. Their week gets started on Tuesday night when they travel to Charleston, SC to take on the South Carolina Stingrays. After the game against the Stingrays, they will head to Florida for three games this weekend.
Tuesday, Dec. 4th @ South Carolina Stingrays, 7:05 pm EST
Friday, Dec. 7th @ Florida Everblades, 7:30 pm EST
Saturday, Dec. 8th @ Florida Everblades, 7:00 pm EST
Sunday, Dec. 9th @ Orlando Solar Bears, 1:30 pm EST